As a longtime repeat visitor, I’ve had a lot of experience on how to manage this bigger-than-life destination. I say “destination” rather than “resort,” because Atlantis’ marketing and sales people use that term, arguing that in this case, the resort, rather than The Bahamas, is the destination. They have a point. Anyway, what follows are some tips I’ve learned over the years.
Which Hotel Tower To Book?
Even if you don’t count Marina Village condos or the off-campus Comfort Suites, the choices are almost overwhelming, so think of it this way: As you move from the easternmost option (Coral Towers, formerly part of the Merv Griffin resort) toward the west—Beach Tower (also converted from pre-Kerzner days), the Royal Towers, The Cove, and The Reef—rates tend to climb.
Many kids clamor to stay at the iconic Royal Towers, and that is a particularly good choice for brief stays because you’re right in the center of things, so you’re not spending precious time walking or taking the (free) shuttle from the Beach Tower. The all-suite Cove is for people who want urbane earth tones and plenty of space; its guests can also use Cain at The Cove, an adults-only pool with a DJ. The Reef Atlantis, as mentioned, features condos best suited for families who want communal space and their own kitchen. The 2-bedroom suites work well for extended and/or multi-gen groups.
The secret sweet spot? For some clients, that might be a less expensive, ocean-facing room on an upper floor in the Coral Towers. Revisiting Coral Towers’ Ocean Wing, I stood on the balcony of Room 11318 and looked straight down at schools of rays in the Predator Lagoon and, beyond some pools and palm trees, that splendid beach stretching as far as I could see, with sunlight glistening off blue water. Then, turning slightly to the left, I had a perfect view of the Royal Towers, with its Mad Ludwig architecture, pretty in pink. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was where the film crews stand when they make Atlantis marketing material.
How do you not get lost on the grounds? Good question. Clients should walk around with a map, of course, but if they still get lost, they’ll find employees everywhere whose primary mission is to point them in the right direction. Their courtesy never fails to impress me; that’s one of the core values taught in staff training. Public relations manager, Eric Hall, reminded me that the managers encourage employees to say “With pleasure” at the end of conversations with guests. “When I was dating my future wife, I remember once we were getting off the phone, and she signed off with a surprisingly polite, formal, ‘With pleasure.'” Hall laughed then, and he laughs again now. “She didn’t work here, but Atlantis employs so many people from the community that some of its core value phrases have slipped into the way we talk to each other.”
Quietest Places To Chill
Atlantis is designed for people who want stimulation, action, and entertainment; it’s not designed to be a remote island retreat. Still, I have never, ever seen the beaches crowded, which makes them fine for stretching out for a snooze. A couple of other secrets: The (complimentary) lap pool by the fitness center is one of the most peaceful places on the campus. There are no umbrellas over the chairs, but if you wear a hat and cover up with a pareo and sunscreen, it’s a wonderful place to retreat. And then there’s the lending library, a two-story, light-filled space that’s a delight for anyone who wants to get lost in a good book.
Did Someone Mention Sunscreen?
Sunburned clients are cranky clients. It can happen, too, because the ocean breezes (remember, The Bahamas are in the Atlantic Ocean, not some sheltered part of the Caribbean Sea) make visitors think they’re not getting burned when they are. Do them and yourself a favor—warn them.
Cove Beach, because it’s protected from waves and it attracts fish that are kind enough to entertain guests who enjoy snorkeling, as I do. You can rent snorkeling gear at Atlantis, but if you have a mask and snorkel at home, pack it.
Atlantis, Paradise Island, is primarily an a la carte resort, even for people who buy a meal plan, so the dolphin encounters, paddleboat rentals, build-a-bear and speedway experiences, kids’ camps, and use of the fitness center, etc., cost real money. Mind you, this is supposed to be a vacation, a splurge, so if your clients want to spring for something, they should. Personally, I find the Jokers Wild Comedy Club and the guided snorkeling in The Dig irresistible; others might want to dance at the 9,000-sq.-ft. Aura nightclub, take rock-climbing classes, or play a round of golf.
That said, some of Atlantis’ best features are complimentary, including the expansive beach, swimming pools with different looks and depths, shuttle, library, movie theater (three shows daily), The Dig and other aquariums (I’ve seen kids stand transfixed in front of one tank for a half hour at a time while I stood there doing the exact same thing), and that stupendous, over-the-top water park. Henry Bain, director of sales and marketing marine & water park pperations, told me, “Aquaventure can accommodate comfortably 10,500 people.”
On this trip I finally dared to shoot down the near-vertical, 60-ft. slide on the Mayan Pyramid. What a hoot! Ditto, the rides down the Tower of Power. And I could spend hours at a time on the Lazy River and The Current, two very different variations on a similar theme. I also found myself spending considerable time hanging out in and around the Royal Towers rotunda and the casino, gazing at the people, the mythologically themed art, and the big, colorful sculptures by Dale Chihuly, the Elvis of glass art.
The bottom line—clients on shortish stays may find more than enough to do without incurring many additional charges, while those staying for a week or so will want to try some of these extras. Travel advisor Bethann Platt just makes sure that her clients understand the a la carte nature of this destination.
Where To Eat?
If you’ve dined at celebrity-chef restaurants in Manhattan, with their adults-only vibe, then it can be surprising to see families with children at Nobu Atlantis or Jean-George’s Cafe Martinique. There aren’t many such families at Atlantis’ best restaurants, of course; most diners who are traveling with children hire a sitter for the night or drop off the kids at an evening session or the camp. Children over six are welcome, though, so for parents who want to expose their kids to a higher level of dining, this is the place.
Two examples—Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill, in The Cove, offers appetizers that cost about $20 and entrees in their $40s. Not cheap, but nothing like the prices at a Thomas Keller restaurant. Flay’s Mexican pork loin with a sweet potato tamale is a revelation of how tender and piquant pork can be, and the servers are as welcoming, food-savvy, and helpful in any restaurant anywhere. On this trip, I ate for the first time at Todd English’s Olives, which opened in 2013. Olives, with one open wall facing into the casino, combines casual surroundings with exquisitely prepared Italian food. The aroma of truffle oil on my entree, a chicken pesto and portobello mushroom panini, might have been a deal-breaker for all but the most adventurous child, but there are safer choices on the menu, too, and the panini really was wonderful.
Whether or not to buy a meal plan is a tough call: On the one hand, these plans save visitors money on the restaurants that are included. On the other hand, they don’t include some of the least or most expensive eateries and restaurants, so this is very much a matter of individual preference. With that in mind, know that Associated Luxury Hotels International (ALHI) has added Atlantis to its menu of packages. For more information, call (866) 303-2544 or visit alhi.com .
Many guests buy breakfast at Starbucks (there are several at the resort), and at lunch and dinner some families eat affordably at places like Marina Pizzeria and Quiznos, or they hit the least expensive buffet (Seagrapes); Virgil’s Real BBQ is popular, too; and for large families, Carmine’s. On my last night on this trip I had dinner at Marketplace buffet, in the Royal Towers, where one of the stations featured a round Mongolian grill with a diameter of at least six feet. A chef invites you to point to what you want (chicken, beef, fish, greens, rice, peppers, onions, garlic), upon which he gathers the ingredients and quickly chops, grills, and serves them, perfectly spiced and prepared. You really think it’s that good in Mongolia?